Clocks ticking: Mums protest against outsource plans for kids club
Cost-cutting plans to outsource popular playground clubs to private companies were described by angry mothers as heralding a “death knell” for a vital service.
About 80 protesters descended on Lambeth town hall last week to call on the council to keep One O’Clock Clubs in-house instead of putting them under control of private providers.
There are fears the service will be broken up, resulting in funds drying up in the future and less rigorous monitoring of staff.
Trade union Unison said Lambeth has identified potential providers to take over eight of the clubs, but employees had been asked to form mutuals to run four others.
Andrew Tullis, convenor for children’s services at Lambeth Unison, said: “This is an example of how it’s going to fragment and break up services. We want to keep it a public service.”
Mother-of-two Grace Lally feared that council funding would be phased-out and providers would lack funds to keep the clubs open.
Ms Lally said: “This would be a death knell for the whole service. The council seems to be washing its hands of responsibility. These are really vital services for parents as well as children.”
As a child, Sarah Butler went to Norwood Park’s club. She now takes her own son there and hopes he can take his own children when he grows up.
Ms Butler said: “Handing them over to over other people is not the answer. We want them to remain as they are.
“By keeping clubs in the hands of Lambeth, I know my children are safe.”
Last month, half the borough’s adventure playgrounds were locked shut after the council terminated its contract with charitable company Lambeth Play Association over failure to “follow proper employment procedures”.
The closures sparked concerns over further transfer of services as part of the “co-operative council” model.
At the protest last week children handed letters, with reasons why they love the clubs, to council leader Steve Reed.
Coun Reed said the funding cuts forced on Lambeth resulted from unfair decisions taken by the Government.
Coun Reed said: “There is no reason to assume that a community-led service is any more likely to be at risk than a council-led service. In Haringey it was council services that were at fault in the tragic case of Baby Peter. What matters is the quality of monitoring that’s in place, and we will accept only the highest standards regardless of who is running the service.”
He said council funding for the clubs would be transferred to the Young Lambeth Co-operative, which is being formed to oversee play services in the future.
But Alastair Crabtree, an activist from Save Our Services, pointed to the closure of adventure playgrounds, which were contracted out to Lambeth Play Association, when service hours were cut and parents complained the company did not have enough experienced staff.
He said: “We know from experience that when a service is moved out of council control problems are far more likely to occur.
“Parents do not want that to happen to the One O’Clock Clubs.”
Potential providers for the One O’Clock Clubs:
• Weir Link (Agnes Riley)
• Effra Children’s Centre (Brockwell Park)
• Clapham Manor Primary School & Children’s Centre (Clapham Common)
• Larkhall School and Children’s Centre (Larkhall Park)
• Kids Company (Loughborough Park)
• Loughborough Pre-School (Max Roach Park)
• Myatts Field Project (Mulberry Centre)
• Holmwood Nursery and Children’s Centre (Windmill Gardens)